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'Plain ... but not horsefaced' - the ideal 1960s female Garda

One ingenious way around the marriage bar? Ban good looking female gardaí.

THE MARRIAGE BAR was a piece of legislation that banned women from working as civil servants after they married.

Ireland adopted the bar in the 1930s, before finally abolishing it in 1973 when we joined the EU.

There were challenges in between, however – not least attractive female gardaí leaving the force to get married and, presumably, have attractive babies.

The issue was raised in the Dáil on several occasions and some of the TDs – male, shockingly – came up with brilliant ways to combat the depleting female force.

Speaking in May 1958, Independent TD Frank Sherwin made the extremely helpful suggestion that “while recruits should not be actually horsefaced, they should not be too good-looking; they should be just plain women and not targets for marriage”.

targets for marriage Source:

The above is an actual sentence that a public representative once said. In the Dáil.

Check out the subtle early-1960s Garda recruitment campaign* below while that sinks in.

horsefaced gif Source: Tumblr

*Sadly, not really

Sherwin made a similar suggestion in March 1962 to then Justice Minister Charlie Haughey.

The Deputy asked Haughey if he was aware that “quite a number of the Ban Ghardaí will marry this year”.

He claimed this demonstrated that good-looking female gardaí should not be recruited “in the public interest”.

not horsefaced Source:

In the 1958 Dáil debate there was also an enlightening discussion on the uniform female gardaí should wear.

Fianna Fáil TD Honor Mary Crowley said that she hoped the “girls will be well turned out” and not “frumpish”.

“I hope they will be smartly dressed, that their uniform will be smart and will look good.

I hope it will not be frumpish but, instead, well-designed and attractive. The girls will have that extra feeling of smartness if they know they look smart and they will be better Guards for that reason.


Imelda wouldn’t stand a chance in the force, she’d be targetted for marriage within minutes. 

Party peer Donogh O’Malley had some concerns of his own about the new uniforms.

I shudder to think what they might be turned out in.

He did offer some guidance, though: “The Aer Lingus hostesses have very nicely-designed uniforms. They are a credit to Ireland.”

As for those who feared women gardaí would be unable to keep up with their male counterparts, Fianna Faíl’s Joseph Brennan soon set them straight:

Women are reputed to be fairly good with the rolling-pin at times and they might be just as well able as a man to wield a baton.

Some more political nostalgia fun:

From banning Galway people entering Meath to using Grindr: The evolution of election literature

Helicopter rides and cigars: Here’s what dinner with Charlie Haughey was like in 1987

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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